I have a fear of heights. They say the fear of heights is actually the fear of falling, and I suppose that’s true. Elevators with glass walls, roller coasters, very tall buildings – I try to avoid them. Add in the motion that comes with some of those, and I’m toast.
I also have an irrational fear of bees. I say irrational because I’m not allergic to them, and I’ve been stung before; I had assumed for many years that once I was stung I’d somehow just get over it because it’s really not that big of a deal, at least not what I’d built it up to be over the years. Regardless, the fear persists. I get panicky when they’re near, and forget it if they’re actually slightly aggressive as opposed to just happening to be in my presence.
There’s nothing like trying to enjoy the warmer weather to exacerbate these fears. The bees (and yellow jackets, and wasps, and hornets, and those nasty carpenter bees which seem to have appeared just this year in our yard) are out in full force, causing me to constantly check my surroundings for the little invaders. And of course, spring and summer are perfect times to enjoy the playground which, though designed for kids, has spaces that are too high for a scaredy-cat adult like me.
And the playground is precisely where I worry about passing along my fears to my daughter. I don’t want my feelings about things to influence her choices; I want her to experience things and draw conclusions for herself (like, if I don’t care for a certain vegetable, I don’t want to never serve it in our house; I’d rather make it and have my daughter try it and make the determination on her own whether she likes the vegetable or not).
I already see how my daughter differs in personality and preference from me, so it would come as no surprise if she were to like certain things that I didn’t. Recently, I brought my daughter to the local playground and she chose to play in the area that was meant for kids slightly older than her. I let her try the space out, since I was there with her and could climb around with her while she figure out how to use everything.
But then she wanted to try a monkey bars thingie that was a wee bit taller than I personally was comfortable with. My daughter, however showed no signs of hesitation. She began to climb with my hand there to guide her, and then needed help with how to navigate over the top. She asked `me to show her. So, I attempted to climb it myself but it was just too high for me (then a bee flew by and it was all over). I assumed my spot on the ground and let her climb again, trying to use words instead to walk her through it.
I want to let my daughter explore freely, without my fears limiting what she tries. At points when she was climbing over the top of the monkey bars, I wanted to tell her, “you’re too high;” “are you sure you don’t want to come down,” or “let’s go try something else instead.” But the truth was, she was playing safely. I was right there beside her, she wasn’t being reckless, and she was listening to my instructions on how to climb. So I bit my tongue and let her decide when she was ready to stop.
I was proud of her that day for exploring and trying – and of myself for giving her the space to set her own limits.